Mark Sanford: Thanks for killing our immigration bill, Trump

Cause of death: Murder by tweet.

Nah, just kidding. Trump didn’t kill the bill. That which is already dead cannot die.

What he may have done, though, is given centrist Republicans one more fighting chance on their discharge petition to force a vote on a clean DREAM amnesty. Watch, then read on:

Here’s how quickly Trump’s mind can change. Last night he was allegedly saying this:

This morning he’s tweeting that there’s no sense passing anything so long as the Senate filibuster exists. If you read this yesterday, you know how damaging that is to the House’s compromise immigration bill. House conservatives are terrified of crossing Trump (on this issue especially) and becoming the next Mark Sanford in their own primaries. So they’re waiting for a green light from POTUS on whether to back Ryan’s compromise bill. It’s got a bunch of things border hawks like, but not everything. It’s also got a DREAM amnesty, which is why moderate GOPers are prepared to vote for it. All conservatives want is a thumbs up from the president to give them cover to support it. He won’t give it to them. Because he happens to be right — in one sense, it’s pointless for the House to act knowing that the bill will surely die in the Senate anyway.

But it’s not pointless in another sense. Remember, the whole reason this latest immigration kabuki started is because moderate Republicans want to impress voters in their purple districts by taking a big show-vote for amnesty. That’s what their discharge petition was about: If they could round up 218 signatures, i.e. every Democrat in the House plus 25 or so vulnerable Republicans, they could force Paul Ryan to bring a vote on DREAM to the floor. It might even pass! And then it would go nowhere in the Senate, but that’s okay. The core goal of voting for amnesty would have been achieved. Centrist Republicans would have succeeded in distancing themselves a bit from Trump’s immigration policies before their districts vote this fall. They could go back home and tell everyone, “We voted for DREAM!”

If Trump is worried about his congressional majorities, and he should be, that would be reason enough to endorse the compromise bill. Get Ryan to bring it to the floor and give centrist Republicans an opportunity to vote yes. If conservative Republicans also vote yes because of Trump’s endorsement, fine. No big deal. The bill’s not going to clear the Senate so it doesn’t matter. If conservative Republicans instead decide to vote no because they don’t want to be seen as supporting an amnesty of any kind, that’s also basically fine. Centrist Republicans would prefer the bill to pass the House so that they can tell their voters they “got something done,” but even if it doesn’t pass they’d still have had the chance to register their support for amnesty in a floor vote.

The only way they can fail to meet their core objective of voting on DREAM is if leadership gives up on the bill entirely. Which Trump has now all but guaranteed by refusing to support it.

But wait. This isn’t all on Trump. Couldn’t Ryan decide “to hell with it” and call a vote on the compromise bill despite the likelihood that conservatives would vote no and the legislation would fail? He could! And if he did, centrist Republicans would get their opportunity to support amnesty after all. Everyone wins! Except … for Paul Ryan, who’d look like a chump having not one but two immigration bills written by his own caucus torpedoed on the House floor. (Bob Goodlatte’s conservative bill failed yesterday.) Even worse, his would-be successor, Kevin McCarthy, would look like an even more ineffectual chump for failing to broker a compromise that could get 218 votes and the support of his good friend Donald over at the White House. Sanford, in other words, is half-right here. Trump’s tweets doom any chance of the bill clearing the House, but it’s Ryan’s and McCarthy’s prestige that’ll end up preventing a vote on the bill to begin with.

And so: Will the centrists try one more push for a discharge petition on DREAM? What’s the harm in it if they do? A DREAM amnesty won’t become law. House conservatives will protect themselves politically by voting no on it. House centrists will protect themselves politically by voting yes on it. The only people who get hurt are Ryan and especially McCarthy, who’ll look like they’ve lost control of their own caucus. But who cares? McCarthy’s loss in the Speaker race is Steve Scalise’s gain. Just do the damned discharge petition and end this pitiful charade.

Exit question per Trump’s tweet this morning about a “red wave”: He sounds pretty confident, huh? The latest generic-ballot average at RCP has Democrats up 6.1 points, nearly double the lead they had three weeks ago. YouGov’s latest projection of next year’s House make-up has Democrats at 219 and the GOP at 216, nearly the narrowest possible margin. POTUS is right that the GOP may gain a few seats in the Senate but they’ll likely still be woefully short of the 60 they need to beat a filibuster. And it’s a cinch that Democrats will gain House seats even if they don’t win an outright majority, which means the House will be even harder to govern next year than it is now. POTUS seems to be under the impression that passing legislation will be easier next year than it is now. In all likelihood, it’ll be harder. Maybe much harder.

David Strom 7:01 PM on September 24, 2022